Adirondack Fellows tackle complex topics

Publication Date

Living in New York City, Andy Zou ‘17 had barely heard of the Adirondacks. Shannon Holly, on the other hand, grew up in the foothills of the sprawling, six-million acre Adirondack Park, in Gloversville, N.Y.

But by the end of the summer, both students will share a keen understanding of a critical issue or policy affecting the Adirondacks, an area bigger than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier and Grand Canyon National Park combined.

Zou and Holly are the latest recipients of a summer research fellowship program run offered through the Kelly Adirondack Center.

Now in its third year, the competitive program selects students enrolled in an undergraduate, master’s or doctoral program in urban planning, public policy, environmental science, the physical sciences or social sciences.

Over the course of seven weeks, fellows conduct independent research on an issue impacting the Adirondacks. They also participate in workshops and seminars, meet with representatives of organizations involved with Adirondack advocacy and policy, and write op-eds related to their topic. Hikes and visits to places such as the Adirondack Museum are also part of the itinerary.

Each fellow receives a stipend and housing

Zou is majoring in managerial economics and environmental policy. As part of his research, he is looking into whether the Adirondack Park Agency is ideally suited to manage the park, or whether it's feasible to revisit the idea of having the preserve be included in the National Park System, as once proposed in the 1960s.

“There has been considerable debate about this over the years,” said Zou. “ I want to find out whether the park is actually better off under the APA today,” Zou said, “ and whether conservation groups believe that the abandoned Adirondack Mountains National Park proposal promise more robust protection of the Adirondack experience.”

Holly graduated with a degree in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 2014. She plans to pursue her masters in epidemiology at Brown University in the fall. She has been poring over census documents and other material to see how residents within the park, at a population level, compare in terms of health to those in other poor, rural areas of the country.

In particular, she is looking at the correlation between the regulations on private land use within the park and the overall well-being of the full-time residents (as measured by occurrence rates of the "big four" non-communicable diseases: cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and cancer. She will compare those rates to others such as the Catskills, the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and Shenandoah National Park.
“I plan on showcasing ways in which wilderness could be preserved without damaging human lives,” said Holly.

The fellows will present their findings at a reception at the center Aug. 5 from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

“The idea of the fellowship is to showcase how many different topics you can study just from our collection in the Adirondack Research Library,” said Caleb Northrop, special assistant to the President’s Office and Kelly Adirondack Center.
The fellows work closely with Northrop and Hallie Bond, director of the Center.

The Kelly Adirondack Center includes a home built by noted Adirondack conservationist Paul Schaefer in 1934 and the Adirondack Research Library. The center, which Union acquired in 2011 from a private conservation group, is three miles from campus in nearby Niskayuna.

The library boasts the largest collection of material outside of the Adirondack Park, including rare books, maps, photographs, documents and the personal papers of some of the region's foremost conservationists.

For more information about the reception, contact Northrop at (518) 388-6305 or